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£46,350 when new
What am I looking at? A car that, should you have a family and a dog, or indeed regularly undertake really sedate cross-continental moonshine runs, is one you must consider. Volvo practically built its reputation on big estates (and safety, and perhaps roll-neck jumpers), so you’re looking at a very important car in this new V90. But it’s not new new is it? No. This generation of V90 was first introduced a couple of years back; a time when your only engine options were a four-cylinder diesel (187bhp) or four-cylinder diesel (230bhp). The petrol ‘T’ series range starts off with a T4 producing 187bhp, this 247bhp T5, and the range-topping, petrol-hybrid T8. But that car also costs £60,555 and, though it gets 400bhp, it’s no wild V8 monster – there’s an electric motor supplementing the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine you get in this £14k cheaper T5.
So what’s the engine like sans electricity? Really nice actually. It’s very, very refined. There’s no head-snapping acceleration on offer – 0-62mph takes seven seconds – but it’s pleasingly fast for something so big. Two tenths quicker than the V90 D5, in any case, and that car offers up a load more torque. Though, it’s slower than both its BMW 5 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant equivalents. It doesn’t make a spectacularly engaging noise, but then most of the time it barely makes any noise at all. Should the mood take you, there’s a characteristic turbo four-pot thrum near the top end of the curve, but you really have to be trying hard to get there. And the V90 doesn’t really encourage that sort of behaviour. Why not? It’s just so comfortable. As we’ve noted, this V90 is based on the XC90 SUV architecture and is thus an inherently good setup. There’s good body control, the steering is accurate and decently weighted, and for the most part, you simply point and float. Our car’s (£1,500 optional) adaptive damping does a fine overall job in Comfort, while flicking to Dynamic firms it up as well as adding steering weight and sharpening the responses of the eight-speed automatic gearbox. Though it still isn’t the snappiest. So keep things in Comfort, cool your mood and you’re all good. Oh sure, the ride isn’t completely without fault. It does get unsettled from time to time, potholes and expansion joints in particular causing unnecessary interference, but for something with such an explicit remit of premium family carriage… you’re not going to need much more talent. Fair point. Will the family enjoy it too? Almost certainly. This is, without a doubt, a world-class cabin environment. Lots of plush materials, thoughtfully laid out with a focus on serenity rather than ‘thrusting executive’. The seats are simply superb, there’s plenty of elbow and knee-room for passengers, and the boot – while not as big as a BMW 5 Series Touring – is still big enough to swallow a litter of golden retriever puppies or indeed something infinitely less cuddly and fun to stow in the rear (560 litres with the seat up, 1,526 litres flat). There’s that lovely central touchscreen that responds quickly and is properly easy to use, along with tonnes of safety equipment. Our car had £10k worth of options thrown on, including a superb £3,000 Bowers and Wilkins stereo, the aforementioned adaptive damping (£1,500), and the ‘Xemium’ pack (£1,800). That comprises a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree parking camera, and park assist pilot. It’s worth it for that 360-camera alone; really useful for something so big. Should I care? Yes. This is a well-executed, premium family estate. It could be more engaging from a driver’s perspective, sure. It could – perhaps should – feature a straight-six or even V8, because it feels big and premium enough to warrant such extravagance. We understand Volvo’s reasoning for downsizing, and anyway, everyone’s doing it these days. But still. But as a means of transporting you and yours, in a tremendously desirable silhouette (arguably the prettiest big estate out there currently) in comfort, it’s great. It also oozes class, and makes rivals feel unnecessarily aggressive. A wonderful tonic for today’s world. Price as tested: £56,320.